West Virginia: Raw Milk-Related Illness Among Lawmakers Who Passed Bill Legalizing Sale Of Raw Milk?

West Virgina lawmakers recently passed a bill allowing West Virginians to buy or sell raw milk legally. To celebrate the passage of the legislation, WSAZ reports that one delegate brought some raw milk to share among his co-workers. Since the day that the West Virginia lawmakers shared the raw milk, several have gotten sick with fairly serious digestive illness.

While some West Virginia lawmakers call the synchronization of the virulent stomach illness and the drinking of the raw milk a coincidence, others (including state health officials) aren’t so sure that the illness and the raw milk drinking aren’t connected. In fact, after receiving an anonymous complaint about the drinking of the raw milk and subsequent sickness impacting lawmakers, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is now investigating the matter.

Not only are state health officials investigating the claims of at least one person, their anonymous tipster, that the raw milk is the source of the illness circulating among some West Virginia lawmakers, but they are also investigating whether or not that raw milk may have been illegally purchased.

West Virginia Delegate Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock) is among the sick lawmakers. He reportedly told media outlets that a “stomach bug” has recently been “making the rounds” for weeks. He admits to drinking the raw milk when it was brought in, but he says that he didn’t drink much and doesn’t believe drinking the raw milk contributed to his current illness.

“[The person who brought the raw milk] caught me in the hallway, offered a cup to me, and you want to try to be a gentleman. I had a small sip and walked away and tossed the rest of it. I highly doubt raw milk had anything to do with it, in my case”

McGeehan went on to explain that there are definitely others among the West Virginia legislature that are suffering from the same symptoms he’s currently dealing with. He is also among several lawmakers who has outed the West Virginia lawmaker who they say brought the raw milk in to share.

The lawmaker who reportedly brought the raw milk to share among the West Virginia legislative body is Scott Cadle (R-Mason). Cadle is also the delegate who sponsored the West Virginia raw milk legalization bill in the first place.

The West Virginia state health department says that raw milk can negatively impact health, citing the fact that it can contain dangerous parasites and bacteria. These potentially fatal microbes are removed from the milk most of us drink through the pasteurization process.

As Daily Kos reports, both the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC also warn against the practice of drinking raw milk.

“Milk and milk products provide a wealth of nutrition benefits. But raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.”

Supporters of the legalization of the sale of raw milk have a different point of view. They say that not only is raw milk more ethical, but it also has a higher nutritional content than pasteurized milk.

As far as Delegate McGeehan goes, he believes the milk you drink should be a personal choice. According to reports, he doesn’t believe it’s any riskier than dietary choices such as eating raw oysters.

“There definitely shouldn’t be a law against allowing people to do what they want within the framework of the rule of law. Just be careful.”

Legislation similar to the recently passed raw milk bill was vetoed by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin just last year. According to the governor’s spokesperson, he opted to sign the recent raw milk bill because “it has precautions in place to better protect people’s health.” The spokesperson went on to say that it is up to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to investigate the situation and determine what really happened, and whether or not the current outbreak of debilitating stomach illness circulating throughout the West Virginia legislature is connected to the raw milk reportedly supplied by Delegate Cadle.

It’s important to note that if raw milk was distributed, it could have been in violation of current West Virginia law. The newly signed bill legalizing raw milk won’t go into effect until May, reports New York Daily News.

Delegate Cadle has also refused to divulge to the media where he got the raw milk he shared with his co-workers.

“I might have been breaking the law. Hell, I don’t know. I gave it away.”

Not every West Virginia legislator who drank the milk showed symptoms of illness, and some of those who did get sick say they didn’t drink the raw milk at all, according to reports. It won’t be until the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources concludes its investigation that we’ll know for certain where the milk came from and whether or not it was indeed the raw milk that made the West Virginia lawmakers so ill.

[Image via Shutterstock]